Today is July 4th, Independence Day here in the US. This is a holiday that carries strong images and memories with it, one that can carry a lot of expectations about how the day should be celebrated. For one friend it’s watermelon and barbecued hot dogs. For another it’s Will Smith movies. For me it’s usually a freaked out cat and whatever fireworks I can see from my patio. Whatever the details, everyone seems to have some specific idea of how to the holiday is supposed to be spent.
It occurred to me today that it’s easy to have some of the same expectations and preconceived ideas about writing and writers. Maybe we think of writers as very easily inspired to write and cast ourselves in an unfavorable light when we struggle to find the next idea. Maybe we think writers are successful because they have hours and hours of uninterrupted time with their muse, and wonder how we will ever make that kind of time in our busy lives. It’s even possible that we think good writers receive nothing but praise from their editors and never ever get rejection letters.
The truth is, just as there are all kinds of ways to celebrate Independence Day, there are all kinds of writers and all kinds of writing processes. There is no one formula that works. Writers write in the morning, they write at night. They write in spiral notebooks, on zippy little netbooks, or a Starbucks napkin. They might have one beta, they might have seven or eight critique partners targeted at different stages of the finished work. Some writers jump around in their manuscript, some write a straight chronological line from start to finish. Some outline down to the chapter and paragraph, some write entirely by the seat of their pants.
The one common thread is that writers write. How much they write, how often, and by what means are just details. Certainly there are some great habits to be learned from successful writers, but they should be guidelines, not an absolute yardstick we measure our own process against. The important thing is to be open to what works for you. Even if you have a regular writing routine, remember that our lives are in constant flux and every story is different. What works today may not work for you tomorrow. Be flexible, both with the story and with your process, follow your instincts, and write!
What about you? Do you have a special way of celebrating Independence Day? Do you have a regular routine when you’re writing?